Summary: A labor day sermon about our calling in the world.
September 2, 2012
Labor of Love
Well, summer’s pretty much over. In a few more weeks the leaves will begin to change color and fall to the ground. Temperatures will turn cold and we’ll see that weird white stuff on the ground. Labor day weekend signifies a shift from thinking summer to thinking fall. The kids are in school, they’ll wrestle with tests, homework, papers and projects. For parents and grandparents, it’s back to the hectic pace of life with no real break until next June.
Tomorrow is the last “holiday” until Thanksgiving. For the next 2½ months all we have to look forward to is the brief weekend respite from each weeks labors, before we spend Monday morning, mourning Monday morning.
Have you ever thought about what the word labor means. I checked out other words for labor, and in my opinion, not too many of them were uplifting. Think about these words — Labor = chore, drudgery, effort, energy, exertion, grind, job, plod, strain, strive, struggle, sweat, toil, trouble, and wrestle.
That’s not an overly positive image of what it means to labor. In fact, with that in mind, we might just want to think about celebrating something other than labor.
When we think of the Bible and our call to labor, we think about Genesis 3:17, when Adam was told by God ‘the ground is cursed and through painful toil and the sweat of your brow you will work the ground.’ Not an overly great image.
This message to Adam came after he and Eve disobeyed God and ate from the ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil.’ But, that wasn’t the first reference to working in the Bible. One chapter earlier, in Genesis 2:15, we read, The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to WORK IT and TAKE CARE OF IT.
The phrase to work the land in Hebrew has a number of meanings, it also means to serve, to minister and to worship. Those are interesting meanings for the same word that means work. I don’t believe God intended work to be drudgery and a real pain. Instead, work is supposed to be a blessing and a way in which we bring honor and glory to God.
In Colossians, Paul wrote, 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
In other words, whatever we’re doing, we are to put our whole self into it, knowing that our boss is really God. One of the things I really enjoy about sports is watching athletes who give it everything. They don’t save anything for the post-game shower. They leave all of their energy and passion on the field. That’s what God is talking about. We are called to give it everything we have. Another way to look at this would be to ask the question ~ “If you were your boss, would you be happy with your work?”
In Ephesians 2:10, Paul wrote, we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do what . . . to do GOOD WORKS. This is a theme that runs through Paul’s letters, the image that we honor God by our work, not to complain, not to grumble. Instead we learn what God wants us to do, because we were created by God – we are God’s handiwork, He was the master designer who knit us together in our mother’s womb so that you could be here today and so that you could have the gifts and talents so that you could do Good works, not to earn salvation, but because of your salvation. You can’t wait to make a difference in the lives of others. That’s what Paul is getting at.
Yet, we see bumper stickers that say, I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to work. Or “I owe, I owe, it’s off to work I go.” Then there are the ones you can buy at college, “My child and my money go to such and such college.” This attitude gives us the impression that work is simply to pay the bills, to buy what we need and if there’s anything left over, go to a movie, out to eat or have a vacation.
What’s your attitude about your work? You see, it doesn’t matter if you’re in school, working full time or retired. Your attitude and mind set will impact everything you do. Are you taking 4 or 5 coffee breaks BEFORE lunch? Do you count the weeks until flu season, knowing this will provide a great excuse to miss work? Do you practice your cough and stuffy nose so you can sound convincing? If you feel this way you’re not alone, surveys indicate 7 out of 10 Americans are dissatisfied with their jobs and dread going to work. They think real living only occurs on weekends or when their shift ends.